Ralph Yarl family lawyer meets with prosecutors in shooting

Ralph Yarl family lawyer meets with prosecutors in shooting

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Ralph Yarl capturing

After a Kansas Town teenager was shot and wounded for going to the doorway of the improper house, outrage followed in Kansas Town and across the country.

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A civil rights attorney representing the family of Ralph Yarl, the Kansas City teen shot last week after going to the wrong house to pick up his siblings, met with the Clay County prosecutor Tuesday and expressed anger at the way the case was handled.

Attorney Lee Merritt met with Clay County Prosecutor Zachary Thompson at the Clay County courthouse in Liberty after days of protest and outrage across the country over the shooting and the response of police and prosecutors.

The meeting came one day after Clay County prosecutors charged the shooter, Andrew D. Lester, 84, of Kansas City, North, with first-degree assault and armed criminal action. Lester remained free for one more day before turning himself in Tuesday.

Black leaders in Kansas City said they believed race was a factor a white man being turned loose by police without charges for four days after shooting a Black teenager for approaching his front door by mistake. Thompson acknowledged race as a factor in announcing the charges Monday.

“We’re frustrated with law enforcement and their failure to take responsibility for the denial of this family’s due process,” Merritt said during a news conference outside the courthouse. “From last week, no one has really owned up to that. We’ve confronted them about it directly. We know mistakes that they’ve made and so that part is a bit off-putting.”

Ralph Yarl, the teenager who was shot in the head and arm by a white man after going to the wrong house by mistake.
Ralph Yarl, the teen who was shot in the head and arm by a white man soon after going to the wrong home by error. Gofundme

Yarl’s mother and aunt also met with Thompson Tuesday, Merritt said, with the prosecutor and Kansas City police investigators explaining the criminal charges to them.

Yarl had mistakenly gone to the home in the 1100 block of Northeast 115th Street to pick up his younger siblings Thursday night, intending to go to a home on Northeast 115th Terrace. According to the charges, Lester answered the door and opened fire on Yarl within a few seconds, first shooting him in the head and then shooting him again as the teen lay on the doorstep.

Kansas City police took Lester into custody and then released him within two hours. As days passed with no charges being filed, anger grew in the community and the story spread across the country.

At a news conference Sunday, Kansas City Police Chief Stacey Graves responded to the public outcry by saying police needed a statement from Yarl before a case could be submitted to prosecutors. But defense attorneys derided that idea, pointing out that police frequently arrest assault suspects with no participation from a victim.

Charging documents released Monday also showed that police had spoken with Yarl days earlier.

Graves said Lester was held on a 24-hour hold, using a legal term for the maximum time a person can be held without charges being filed. Online custody records showed Lester was held for less than two hours late Thursday night.

“Law enforcement has been dishonest with the public,” Merritt said. “At first they said that he was held for 24 hours under Missouri law. He was never held for 24 hours. That is a false statement that they continue to repeat.”

“After all of the national outcry and criminal charges came down . . . a warrant was issued for his arrest,” he said.

Lester surrendered to the Clay County Detention Center early Tuesday afternoon. He posted a $200,000 bond and was released. Lester is scheduled to appear in court for an arraignment Wednesday.

According to charging documents, Lester told investigators that he feared for his life when he saw Yarl standing on his doorsteps.

“Mr. Lester’s entire defense is that I saw this big, imposing scary figure at my door and I fear him because of his size. A 16-year-old kid, 5’8’’, 140 pounds,” Merritt said.

“But the truth is and what that really reveals is that underlying racial element that everyone’s talking about,” Merritt said. “The fact that he (Lester) feared him because his (Ralph) skin was weaponized. He feared Ralph, a boy because he was Black.”

This tale was at first published April 18, 2023, 7:26 PM.

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Glenn E. Rice is an investigative reporter who focuses on legislation enforcement and the lawful program. He has been with The Star because 1988. In 2020 Rice aided examine discrimination and structural racism that went unchecked for a long time inside the Kansas City Hearth Office.